[...Thai academic and media circles seem to have agreed with the militaryís idea of national security and interest. They did not question the secret nature of the information provided by the concerned government agencies. The Thai public tends to accept that because foreign affairs is highly sensitive and concerned with the national interest the information is to be kept highly confidential among specialists only.
The Thai eliteís perceptions of the impact of the Cambodian conflict on national security issues was also a reason why the policy received strong public support. In a 1985 survey of the Thai eliteís perceptions, almost all respondents (over 98 percent) saw Vietnam as a threat to Thailandís national security. Vietnam also ranked high in many forms of threat, including direct military invasion, political subversion, undermining of the Association of Southeast Asian Nationsís regional solidarity, and support of military aggression by other countries. The majority of respondents (almost 60%) also felt that the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia produced a grave impact on Thailandís security, while 38% saw the impact in a lesser light. Most agreed that the impacts came in various forms, including armed tension along the Thai-Cambodian border, transformation of Kampuchea into a base for threatening Thailandís sovereignty and territorial integrity, aggravation of regional tension and intensification of superpower rivalry in Southeast Asia. In addition, 98% of the respondents rejected the notion of acquiescence to the Vietnamese military occupation in Cambodia as an acceptable outcome. Most of the Thai elite also considered Vietnamís patron, the Soviet Union, a threat to Thailandís security. The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia had exacerbated a historical agony between the Thai and the Vietnamese. Both of them had tried to dominate Cambodia and Laos since the eighteenth century.
The attitude of the population of one country towards another is also an important basis for its foreign policy. The standard text books on Thai history, at both school and university levels, usually begin with the migration of the Thai race from the North to the Chaophraya River basin, where the Khom, or Khmer, had earlier settled. Then the Thais, under capable leaders, were soon able to drive off the Khmer from the river basin. The rapid expansion of the Thai kingdom finally brought down Cambodiaís Angkorean Empire, forcing the Cambodians to move their capitals southward, from Angkor to Lovek, Udong, and Phnom Penh respectively.
A new interpretation by a Western scholar arguing that the southward movement of the Cambodian capitals tended to be influenced by the changing economic environment- as the maritime trade in the region became increasingly important to the post-Angkorean statecraft,- has not been welcomed by Thai scholars. Perhaps, such interpretations do not go well with the notion of the greatest Thai kingdom, successfully bringing down the Angkorean empire.
Moreover, Thai popular history books by amateur historians describe Cambodia as a subordinate, untrustworthy neighbor, often shifting its loyalty between the Thai and the Vietnamese courts. Cambodia sought to attack Siam whenever the Thai kingdom was facing trouble. The classic case with which the Thais have been familiar was the execution of Cambodian King Lovek, known as Phraya Lavek in Thai, by the Ayudhyan King Narasuen. The Thai chronicles tell of King Lovek, who had raided and evacuated villagers in the Siamese eastern border while King Narasuen was occupied by war with Burma. King Narasuen decided to take revenge on Cambodia. The Thai chronicles depicted a dramatic execution of Phraya Lovek. The Thai king mercilessly beheaded the Cambodian king and washed his feet with the latterís blood. It was considered the act of contempt for the enemy. In fact, however, evidence from Western missionaries reveals that the execution never happened. The Cambodian king was able to take refuge in southern Laos. However, this Thai version of the King Lovek story still dominates the general understanding of Thai-Cambodian relations among average Thais. The wars and chaos in Cambodia have always been described as the fault of untrustworthy and factional Cambodia rulers, while the Thai invasions were interpreted as based on rights to control their tributary state and/or to prevent Cambodia from Vietnamization.
Such historiography has enhanced a nationalistic feeling of a great nation with a great history in comparison to its neighboring countries. On the other hand, it has depicted Cambodia, and of course Laos, as inferior nations. This leads to the question of the situation of Indochinese studies in general, and Cambodian studies in particular in Thailand. Perhaps, the perception of Indochinese countries, as poor, inferior countries with little business potential, has dictated the direction of area studies in Thailand. In contrast to American, European and Japanese studies, which dominated international studies in Thailand for three decades, Indochina is much less attractive to Thai academics as a field of study. Thus, the situation of Indochinese studies in Thailand now is not much different from what Charnvit Kasetsiri described in 1991, when he asserted that Thai academic institutions so far have not yet paid enough attention to Southeast Asia as a study area. He wrote that "despite the fact that Thailand belongs to the area, there is no serious attempt to pursue such study. The Thai government, elite and academic specialists, know very little of the economies, politics, society and culture of its neighbors, without mentioning further away Southeast Asian countries." Charnvit further noted that in Thailand only Silpakorn University offered an M.A. Program in the field of Southeast Asian History, while the Institute of Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn and the East Asian Studies Institute at Thammasat University, which have concentrated on China and Japan, are primarily research institutions.
Thus, nationalistic attitudes and ignorance became an obstacle for Thailand to develop a constructive policy towards neighboring countries both during and after the Cold War. With national interest, politically and economically, as the most important priority, Thailandís foreign policy towards the Khmer Rouge simply bypassed Cambodiaís human cost and tragedy.
For two decades already, Thailand has thrown clandestine support behind the Khmer Rouge group, ever since the murderous regime was overthrown by the Vietnamese forces. It is thus timely to examine the relationship between Thailand and the Khmer Rouge. This study will therefore examine Thailandís policy towards the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to the early 1990s. It will focus on the response of Thai governments as well as the perspectives of various Thai political groups on the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge....]
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